International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

ICC Intervention and Prosecution of ISIS?

ISIS, a militant Islamic group active in Syria and Iraq, has been committing has been committing acts of terrorism and atrocities for many months. In a recent article the number of new recruits flying in to join the fight is emphasized. The public violence continues to grow, and many people continue to aid ISIS. Would an intervention from the ICC help slow this, or would it increase their support? Many have been calling on the ICC for action.

In November, Bensouda stated the the ICC would begin looking into starting prosecutions against ISIS. There is now evidence that many individuals who fly in to become involved belong to member states of the ICC, providing the ICC with jurisdictional power. Interestingly, the ICC is also looking into the involvement of British military and political officials in Iraq during the war. The ICC obviously faces some issues here as important Western powers are involved, how will this impact potential ICC involvement in the region?
What would prosecution of ISIS look like? Would a trial be attempted while the conflict was ongoing? It seems unlikely that “those most responsible” would be able to be extracted and sent to the Hague for trial. A trial might also serve to intensify conflict in the region. Tensions between the Sunnis and the Shia have a long history, and are often exacerbated by outside forces, would a trial simply serve to aggravate these? There is no doubt that in the international community’s view ISIS is deemed as “evil”, would this make this prosecution vulnerable to victor’s justice? Is a fair trial possible? Would expectation of a trial hinder the militants’ resolve?


2 responses to “ICC Intervention and Prosecution of ISIS?

  1. pollorey February 28, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Taking into consideration the large quantity of ISIS victims there have been in just the last year—those of which include Americans James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman Kassig, and Kayla Mueller—in the ongoing conflict, it would be daring for the ICC to launch an investigation of the crimes committed by the ISIS terrorist group. The high scale war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by the organization, not to mention the duration of which the group has been operating (with 2015 marking 15 years since their debut in the Iraq War), are evidence of their potency and determination. Without the cooperation of the Syrian and Iraqi governments, an attempt to investigate and prosecute those deemed “most responsible” would create complications and a dangerous landscape for victims and investigators alike. However, Obama’s recent request asking Congress to authorize the use of military force against ISIS presents a great opportunity for US-ICC cooperation, an opportunity that is highly unlikely due to the history of the United States’ opposition to the ICC. Not only could the US military intervention act as a much-needed form of security for ICC investigators, but they could also be used as vessels for attaining suspects of arrest warrants. While their cooperation could be an effective mechanism, it will undoubtedly worsen the conflict—a consequence that both parties must take into account. Furthermore, due to the fact that ISIS spans across multiple states—with control over territory in Syria and Iraq along with operations in Libya, Egypt, and other areas of the Middle East—the ICC must also take into consideration the heavy costs that would need to be garnered towards the protection of witnesses and ICC officials, transportation fees, etc. in an almost certainly lengthy prosecutorial process.

  2. tcheng2015 March 3, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    The international community should be responsible for prosecuting members of ISIS leadership regardless of the outcome.The ICC should not see intervention with ISIS as an obligation, but as an opportunity to bolster the court’s legitimacy. The international community is likely to support the ICC in prosecuting high-level officials within ISIS because the threat of ISIS disturbs international peace and security. Bringing ISIS to the ICC would set a precedent and likely deter future attacks by terrorist organizations. According to David Boscoe, “major powers are unlikely to empower or materially support a court over which they do not exercise significant control”, however; major powers are certainly in favor of the court prosecuting ISIS.

    Bringing officials within ISIS to court benefits a majority of state actors; therefore, prosecutions are likely to succeed since the court’s actions are in the best interest of the powerful world actors. With the support of major world powers, the ICC will experience a tremendous surge in finances and resources to bring perpetrators to justice.

    Although the court prioritizes internal stability over prosecution, it is unlikely that ISIS will achieve any sort of stability in the near future. It would be in the best interest of all states to indict top officials of ISIS and do so immediately. As mentioned in the New York Times, both signatories and non-signatories of the Rome Statute are working to combat ISIS. The United States, Britain, France, Australia, Canada, Germany, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark are all working towards a strategy to strengthen allies on the ground in Iraq and Syria, while bombing Sunni militants from the air. Without attempting to intervene and eliminate leaders within ISIS, it is unreasonable to expect progress be made in the realm of justice and violence. ISIS will continue to pose a threat to the international community if action is not taken.

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